Got Jesus?

"Got Jesus? That's a question North Whidbey television viewers are hearing a lot these days thanks to a group of Oak Harbor religious leaders who are using TV to spread their message of faith.Instead of following the typical televangelist script, however, the Whidbey Christian Impact network is using professional actors and 10 30-second commercials to get out the word.But as the message filters out over local cable channels, at least one Oak Harbor mom is questioning the medium.Debra Burnett says she has no problems with either faith or religion, but she is concerned that some of the dramatic faith-based commercials that started airing at Easter aren't appropriate for young kids and shouldn't be broadcast on cable channels like Nickolodeon Junior. Recently, Burnett said her 5-year-old son watched one: A parody of the Got Milk? commercials where a Gen-X bungee jumper leaps off a bridge rail. As his untethered cord snakes over the rail and disappears, a thud is heard and the words, Got Jesus? appear on the screen, followed by an off-camera voice saying Ouch.Burnett said her son didn't understand the intended humor and worried about the jumper's fate. So she called local cable provider AT&T Media Service and the ad was pulled from the Nickelodeon channel that day.I was very alarmed to see such negative-based advertising directed toward children of any age, Burnett said There should be a more positive way to come to Jesus.So far, Burnett's complaint is the only one Pastor Mark Cargill has heard.Cargill, pastor of Oak Harbor's Lighthouse Christian Center, is also chairman of Whidbey Christian Impact and was instrumental in bringing the commercials to North Whidbey.Some of this stuff is going to tick people off and I don't blame them if it isn't the type of thing they want to hear, Cargill said. But you also have hours and hours of television programming about witches, wrestling, vampire slayers, disasters, death .... and much of it doesn't make a culture any better, it makes it worse.There's so much bad news that comes over the media these days, the 36-year-old pastor added. I think people need to hear good news and that's what our purpose was.Cargill said the 10 commercials chosen by Whidbey Christian Impact target several different age and interest groups, ranging from children and teens to adults to the elderly.It's a broad spectrum designed to plant the seed of good news in people's hearts, he said.The commercials are produced by Impact Productions, a Tulsa Oklahoma-based advertising agency and ministry founded in 1983 for the sight and sound generation. According to its website, the ministry/ad agency has produced 70 different television commercials for more than 2,500 churches to date. The 10 commercials leased by Cargill's group air only in Oak Harbor and are carried on channels like TNT, USA, Lifetime, MTV and VHI.Cargill said the group spent about $9,000 for the leases, and about $30 per day to air them.The idea, he said, came from the knowledge that today's families spend an inordinate of time in front of the television.More notably, he added, the 30-second spots grew out of a unique alliance of about 15 ministries in Oak Harbor, Whidbey Christian Impact.God worked a miracle through the courage and humility of Christian leaders in our community, Cargill said. The network includes pastors from Reform, Baptist, Four-Square, Nazarene and other churches in the area who started getting together about two years ago, Cargill said.We knew if we were really going to touch our city we'd have to come together, Cargill said. Together, as in united we stand, divided we fall.Believing that many people in the community lacked a relationship with God, Cargill said the group prayed for a way to reach a wider audience and to bring a loving, moral voice to the community.As the group prayed and networked, it gravitated to using television to project short, faith-based messages into Oak Harbor community.We were at a prayer retreat and we realized that most people are not going to come to church, so why not take the church to them,' Cargill said. Even if the commercials aren't a hit with all the viewers, Cargill said some might find inspiration and ultimately find faith or church or happier lives as a result.We're not interested in brow-beating people, Cargill said. Instead of putting out messages for Bud Lite, we want to encourage people that God loves them and give them hope. "

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